Olerai Beach House is an ideal beach location for a family or group.
Olerai Beach House: Our full report
A fully staffed, private home towards the southern end of Tiwi Beach, south of Mombasa, Olerai Beach House is a spacious and comfortable family beach house, opened to guests in 2011. Visitors have full and exclusive use of the house and grounds, and access straight onto the very quiet public beach. Unfortunately, as of 14 May 2014 we cannot recommend this property because the UK's foreign office has advised against travel to this area – Mombasa Island to Tiwi Beach.
Although Olerai Beach House is secluded, it’s not remote, making transfers straightforward. The house is just under 3km from the main road, down a sandy track running through shady groves of cashew trees and occasional local houses and compounds. On arrival, you will be met by the staff, and a large black labrador.
With its high, makuti (palm-tile) roof, large, breezy bedrooms and personal décor of wall hangings and other artworks, Olerai Beach House feels comfortably lived in. The floors are entirely of cool, terracotta tiles, laid with occasional rugs.
Access to the lounge is through a small covered outdoor area. There’s plenty of comfy seating here in the shape of sofas and armchairs, and large tables. Although you can take meals here, we ate mostly on the terrace or by the pool. At the back of the lounge is a bar area with a drinks fridge. Guests may help themselves or order drinks from the steward.
The whole house is on the mains electricity grid, and there are plenty of UK-style three-pin sockets.
A heavy, sliding wooden screen (which is secured at night) leads out onto a covered terrace where you’ll find more chairs and sofas, and a hammock, with sea views between the palm trees.
From the terrace, a grassy lawn slopes down to palm groves emerging from the sand and scrub behind the gently shelving beach. Borders of flowering plants and a short flight of steps separate Olerai House from the large swimming pool, which is set into an area of impressive coral rock caves – large vertical openings in the ground that are typical of this ancient, coral-reef coastline. On the seaward side, the pool terrace gives access to the beach, and on the land-facing side, the terrace extends beneath ground level into an area in the open-roofed cave system that has been partially landscaped with a concrete floor to provide a pleasantly cool area for a table-tennis table. Bats fill some of the cave niches to one side and, at the top of the cave walls, near ground level, tropical vegetation overflows from the garden. Altogether, the effect is magical, and doubly so at night, when the pool and cave lights are on.
Accommodation at Olerai Beach House is made up of five quite different bedrooms.
Downstairs, to either side of the lounge, are the two master bedrooms, one with a double bed and one with large twins that can be moved together, with ceiling-to-floor mosquito nets and large ceiling fans in each room. These rooms are well furnished, with plenty of clothes storage space and lock-up chests. They are entered by solid, double doors and have window bars on the normally open windows at the side and front. They feel quite private but are not en-suite. Just outside each room is a decent bathroom, with a well-lit washbasin, a walk-in shower and a separate flush toilet.
The upper floor of the house is accessed by a rather funky wrought-iron spiral staircase. This floor is largely open-plan, so most suitable for children, with very spacious bedrooms at each end and a landing that crosses above the lounge beneath a wall of nicely executed reproduction prehistoric cave paintings. The upper floor is directly under the impressive, high-pitched roof, and has very large, dormer-like openings on all sides, allowing plenty of airflow. There's not much privacy upstairs, however, and both bedrooms are simply screened off from the landing by hanging drapes. Each upstairs room has two large twins and an extra single bed. Mosquito protection is achieved with a very large, frame-hung mosquito net above each pair of twin beds. There’s plenty of clothes storage and floor fans. Each upstairs bedroom also has a shower room with washbasin and flush loo. As in the downstairs bathrooms, the toiletries are rather basic.
As well as the main house, Olerai Beach House has a separate, modestly sized annexe called ‘the cottage’ which comprises twin beds and a ceiling fan, a simple cold water shower and flush toilet, and a small, redundant kitchen area. Although adequate for children, or as a spillover area for large groups, this accommodation is definitely inferior to the rooms in the main house.
While the sleeping accommodation and bathrooms in the main house are comfortable, you’ll spend most of your time outside the house itself, with activities focusing mainly around the wonderful swimming pool with its waterslide set in the rock, the lovely gardens, and the shady coral cave area.
The beach in front of Olerai House sees occasional local fruit and fish traders, or passers by from other properties on Tiwi Beach, but when we stayed in April 2012 (admittedly in low season), it felt largely deserted. It's possible to swim here at most stages of the tide and the reef is close to the shore, so snorkelling off the beach can be rewarding.
If you walk about 300 metres north along the beach, you come to a famous old backpackers’ haunt, Twiga Lodge, which has a simple bar and restaurant above the beach. Walking south, there’s a small hotel 500 metres along the beach and a much larger one, the Amani Tiwi Beach Resort, 500 metres further. Seek local advice before venturing beyond Amani, as there have been muggings in the area. About 1km south of Amani the beach passes the Kaya Tiwi sacred forest (not currently open as a site to visit, but you could make enquiries) and then reaches the mouth of the Mwachema River, which you can cross on foot depending on recent rains (it often dries up). The northernmost hotel on Diani Beach, the Jacaranda Indian Ocean Beach Club, lies on the south side of the river mouth.
For further excursions, for example to Mombasa, Diani Beach, Shimoni or the Shimba Hills, you can book in advance and pre-pay for a vehicle and driver by the day. For last-minute trips to Diani Beach or Mombasa, local cabs can be called by the house manager.
Our viewOlerai Beach House was an instant hit with both generations in our group when we stayed for three nights in 2012. The friendly and helpful staff, excellent food and great location made the stay a real pleasure and the exceptionally pretty pool area, with its waterslide, delightful caves and surrounding gardens, was hard to leave. The house can be booked for groups of any size, but it’s outstandingly good value for families or large groups of up to 11 people.
Ideal length of stay: 3 nights plus
Directions: Olerai Beach House is a 20-minute taxi drive from/to Ukunda (Diani Beach) Airport or a minimum of 2 hours from/to Mombasa Airport, allowing for delays caused by island traffic and the Likoni ferry.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: Olerai Beach House staff are very flexible on mealtimes and as this is a private house the food very much reflects the tastes and appetites of individual guests. After breakfast, guests talk to the chef about what they'd like for lunch and dinner, and he buys fish, meat, vegetables, drinks and other groceries as necessary.
When we stayed in 2012, breakfast included a variety of fresh fruit, juices, cereals, yoghurt, toast and homemade preserves, plus bacon, eggs, beans and sausages cooked to order.
The chef is an excellent all-rounder and often very creative. The homemade bread and cakes are always good at Olerai Beach House. The avocado and passion fool was a delight, as were the creamy, giant prawns. We really enjoyed the light, grilled fish at lunchtimes, while other stand-out dishes included lusciously spicy pumpkin soup, fragrant coconut beans, surprisingly aromatic broccoli, and a perfect salad of crisp lettuce and sliced avocado, straight off the tree, with a sesame dressing.
Less perfectly, we found the making of good coffee seemed to be a daily challenge – the morning brew from the cafetière was always undrinkably strong. And we hope they've found a way to keep drinks cooler when bringing them to the pool for dinner, as bottles tend to pass the 'warm' threshold in about 20 minutes.
As the staff gain experience these small niggles are likely to settle down. Meanwhile, guests will sometimes need to be quite explicit about their requirements and in turn the staff will make great efforts to look after their needs.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Soft drinks, house wine, beer, vodka and gin are all included. Other drinks are extra, and can be ordered on request with 12-24 hours notice.
Family holidays: Olerai comes with a ping-pong table, board games and a large deep pool with a waterslide and pool floats. Enjoy exclusive family beach holidays in Kenya at this fully staffed private house. Cots and highchairs are provided, along with snorkeling equipment.See more ideas for Family holidays in Kenya
Beach holidays: Olerai Beach House is the perfect family or group beach house, in a location that is ideal for completely undwinding. And Tiwi, as one of the more accessible beaches that is virtually free of beach boys, has a lot to recommend it.See more ideas for Beach holidays in Kenya
Private villas & houses: Olerai Beach House is a lovely house, with direct access to the quiet Tiwi Beach, just north of Diani. Available to groups of up to 11 guests, this beautiful, fully-staffed private house features a fantastic pool and waterslide, gorgeous gardens and a huge coral cave.See more ideas for Private villas & houses in Kenya
Attitude towards children: Olerai Beach House is a family home and welcomes children.
Property’s age restrictions: None.
Special activities & services: Snorkelling equipment and board games are available, as are table tennis and pool floats.
Equipment: 3 baby cots and 2 high chairs.
Generally recommended for children: Olerai Beach House is recommended for families, but the staff are relatively inexperienced with children.
Notes: Weak swimmers will need careful supervision by the large, deep pool and when using the water slide.
Power supply: Mains Electricity
Communications: There is no landline, just a reasonable cellphone signal. The house has no WiFi or internet and guests use their own 3G phones or laptops with dongles.The signal is adequate, but not always enough for decent web-browsing speeds.
TV & radio: None.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: here is as yet no first-aid box. There's a basic clinic give minutes’ drive away on the main Mombasa–Ukunda road, and good hospitals in Diani (15 minutes away).
Dangerous animals: Low Risk
Security measures: At night there’s an askari at the entrance to the property and another one in the garden. The house dog, a black labrador, is always around.
Fire safety: There’s a fire extinguisher in the kitchen but no others. Staff are not trained in fire safety.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: A full laundry service is included in the rates; items are hand- or machine-washed and line- or tumble-dried.
Money: There are lock-up chests in the ground-floor bedrooms. Foreign exchange services aren’t available.
Accepted payment on location: Extras can be settled only in cash, in Kenyan shillings.